The Tahoe Rim Trail
|Volcanic formation north of Barker Pass (Photo © Tim Hauserman)|
Excerpted from The Tahoe Rim Trail by Tim Hauserman
This moderate to strenuous section has several good-sized climbs, but more of the trail runs downhill than uphill. The starting elevation is 7650 feet and it ends near the Truckee River at about 6300 feet. If you are starting from the Tahoe City end it is more strenuous.
This section can usually be hiked from late-July to mid-October (or until the first major snow). Most of the first 7 miles of this trail section are at high elevations which receive a lot of snow. Much of the trail faces north or easta combination which leads to a late snow melt.
There are beautiful ridgeline views of Lake Tahoe, Granite Chief Wilderness, both Blackwood and Ward canyons, and lush areas loaded with wildflowers in both canyons. Twin Peaks (8878 feet), a Sierra crest landmark, is accessible from the trail. In addition, there are numerous little stream crossings and several good camping spots. A lovely little waterfall cascades near one part of the trail in upper Ward Canyon. There is a very pretty series of meadows known as Page Meadows, although on some maps it is listed as "Paige." A dense forest area with huge pines and firs grows in the Ward Creek watershed. Wildlife is abundant and includes bear, coyote, raccoon, blue grouse, and perhaps goshawk and spotted owls. Hopefully you will be lucky enough to spot them. Between Barker Pass and Twin Peaks this lakeless stretch tends to get less use than the trails in the Desolation Wilderness area, which has mountain lakes. However, in the Page Meadows vicinity, bikers, hikers and joggers abound. At the end of your trip you may find the Truckee River is a perfect place to swim or to complete your day with a rafting trip down the Truckee.
In the fall, as streams dry up, the water supply can be limited. You reach the North Fork of Blackwood Creek, about 2.5 miles north of Barker Pass at the bottom of a meadow. In the next mile, you may find one or more springs before late summer. However, the most dependable water source is Ward Creek, about 8.5 miles north of Barker Pass. You parallel the creek, sometimes at a distance, for over 3 miles, and by the time you're starting north from the canyon's main road you have only 5 miles to the Tahoe City trailhead.
The only places to swim are the Truckee River at your destination, and at adjacent Lake Tahoe. The Commons public beach is about 0.25 mile east of the Tahoe Rim Trail on Highway 28 in the center of Tahoe City. There are lots of junctions and turnoffs on this section of trail and the Forest Service has been closing and rebuilding roads and trails in this area, so follow the TRT trail markers and pay attention to where you are going.
Tips for Mountain Bikers
The first five miles of the TRT overlap with the PCT. As you know by now, bikes are not allowed on the PCT. From Twin Peaks to Tahoe City, bikes are allowed: Start at "64 Acres" in Tahoe City (also known as the Truckee River Access Parking Lot) and follow the TRT along the Truckee River, then head uphill rather steeply. In some places there are lots of loose rocks. After 1.7 miles, you reach the east edge of the Page Meadows area and a whole network of great biking trails. The TRT turns right at the first major junction (to the left, a trail crosses a small meadow and heads uphill into the trees), and provides a great gentle uphill ride through the forest above the perimeter of the meadows. In another 1.3 miles, you reach another junction where you have two riding options:
Turn left and follow the TRT as it skirts the edge of a meadow and crosses another one. The section of trail is built-up six inches above the meadow to protect the fragile ecosystem. After passing Page Meadows, the trail heads into the woods. At first the TRT follows a moderate downhill course, then descends more steeply on an old dirt road to Ward Creek Road, a major paved thoroughfare. Turn right on Ward Creek Road, and go uphill 0.2 mile to where you will reconnect with the TRT on your left.
The alternative route to Ward Creek Boulevard and the TRT is to continue ahead for about 1 mile to the next major junction. Turn left and enjoy a fun downhill to Chamonix Road, a paved street in the Alpine Peaks subdivision. Take Chamonix downhill to Courchevel, turn left, and head downhill. In a little more than 1 mile, you will see the Tahoe Rim Trail on your right. (Along the way the road name changes from Courchevel to Ward Creek Boulevard.) From Ward Creek Blvd., the TRT follows an old dirt road for about two miles to a washed-out bridge. After the bridge, the trail starts uphill in earnest through a beautiful area of small meadows where aspens are interspersed with forests of tall old-growth trees. As the trail gets steeper, most bikers will walk their bikes or stop and turn around. Eventually, about 5.2 miles beyond Ward Creek Boulevard you reach a saddle between Twin Peaks on your right and Stanford Rock on the left. The trail to the right leads steeply uphill to Twin Peaks where bikes are not allowed. The trail to the left leads uphill to a great lookout point, and then a 4-mile, fun downhill on a dirt road to Ward Creek Boulevard. Just before reaching the road, you cross Ward Creek in an area that can be deep and difficult to ford until late summer. The 4-mile section between Stanford Rock and Ward Creek is also a challenging but beautiful uphill ride. The start is about 0.5 mile east of the TRT on Ward Creek Road. You will see a gated trail leading off from the road next to a large open flat area on the south side of the highway. Immediately after passing the gate you will need to cross Ward Creek. The climb varies between moderately steep to very steep, and provides tremendous views of the lake and Blackwood Canyon. Eventually you reach the Stanford Rock viewpoint and a spectacular view of Ward Canyon, Twin Peaks and the Sierra crest. After enjoying the view, turn left and follow the trail downhill to a junction with the Tahoe Rim Trail. Or, you can turn around and ride back the way you came. If you choose to ride from here on the TRT, be prepared for a challenging and steep ride on loose soil, with several technical rocky sections.
Barker Pass to Tahoe City
Take Highway 89 (West Lake Blvd.) about 4.25 miles south of Tahoe City and turn right onto the Blackwood Canyon Road, starting opposite Kaspian Beach. Drive 7 miles to the crest above Blackwood Canyon to where the paved road turns to dirt, then another 0.2 mile to the Pacific Crest Trail trailhead parking lot on your right; it is a dirt lot.
Tahoe City to Barker Pass
From the intersection of Highway 89 and Highway 28 at the stoplight in Tahoe City, head south on Highway 89 0.25 mile to the Truckee River Access Parking Area (64 Acres). Park in the lot. The trail starts along the south side of the Truckee River. As you follow the Truckee River west and downstream the trail begins as a bike trail. Continue to follow the river downstream as the bike trail leads into a paved road that then becomes a dirt road. Walk on the dirt road for 0.3 mile and meet a gate right next to the Truckee River. Go around the gate and across a south-climbing gravel road to the start of the Tahoe Rim Trail.
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Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication